tv PBS News Hour PBS April 26, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: >> we're trying to drive the economic benefit here to the taxpayers in the middle. >> woodruff: white house budget director mick mulvaney joins me to explain the administration's tax reform proposal and president trump's plan to get a spending bill passed. also ahead, a look at president trump's first 100 days in office-- the progress and setbacks on the domestic front for the new administration. then, a wall keeping people and wildlife out. how a political divide could endanger animals living along the u.s.-mexico border. >> long-term, this could be a division of genetical populations, where a group of
animals from one side cannot reproduce with another group of animals. the survival of the species is at risk. >> woodruff: all that and more, on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
>> supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's most pressing problems-- skollfoundation.org. >> the lemelson foundation. committed to improving lives through invention. in the u.s. and developing countries. on the web at lemelson.org. >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: the trump administration is out with the broad strokes of what it calls "the largest tax reform" in
u.s. history. the plan's main features, released today, include cutting corporate tax rates to 15% from 35%. it would also consolidate existing income tax brackets into just three, ranging from 10% to 35%. and, it would double the standard deduction, while repealing the estate tax. at a white house briefing, treasury secretary steven mnuchin promised the plan will not make the deficit worse. >> this will pay for itself with growth and with reduced-- reduction of different deductions, and closing loopholes. we will be working very closely, as i said, with the house and senate, to turn this into a bill that can be passed and the president can sign, and there's lots and lots of details going into how that will pay for itself. >> woodruff: republican leaders said the plan offers "critical guideposts" for tax overhaul, but democrats called it a massive tax break for the
wealthy. on another issue, secretary mnuchin said today that president trump "has no intention" of making his tax returns public. congress moved closer today to trying to prevent a government shutdown on saturday. democrats say one stumbling block apparently fell away when the white house agreed to continue subsidies for millions of poor people under obamacare. meanwhile, conservative house republicans announced they will back a newly revised plan to repeal and replace obamacare. it is not yet clear if moderates will go along. there is word that president trump has settled on a course of action against north korea. a top national security advisor says it begins with diplomacy, but includes a range of options. that word came as all 100 senators took a bus caravan to the white house for a classified briefing. democrat chris coons of delaware was among those who spoke afterwards.
>> i was encouraged that they chose to brief the entire senate. and it was a sobering briefing where it was clear just how much thought and planning is going into preparing military options, if called for, and a diplomatic strategy that strikes me as clear-eyed and well-- well proportioned to the threat. >> woodruff: house members had their briefing later at the capitol. and, north korea issued a new warning that it will "go to the end"-- apparently meaning a nuclear strike-- if there is an all-out war with the u.s. china today unveiled its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the latest step in a major naval expansion. the vessel slowly slipped into the water in the port city of dalian, to much fanfare. it is expected to become operational by 2020, after undergoing sea trials. president trump today decried a new legal blow to his immigration policy.
on tuesday, a federal judge in san francisco blocked his order to withhold funding from so-called sanctuary cities, which seek to protect many of those who are undocumented. the president tweeted that the decision was "ridiculous" and vowed to appeal. he lumped that in with criticism of the 9th judicial circuit, where appellate courts also blocked his travel ban. later, he echoed that complaint: >> i'm never surprised by the 9th circuit. ( laughter ) as i said, we'll see them at the supreme court. >> woodruff: mr. trump later told the "washington examiner" newspaper that he has considered proposals to split up the 9th circuit. meanwhile, the department of homeland security formally opened a new office to help victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants. secretary john kelly said it will help "shine a light" on victims, as part of the president's push on illegal immigration.
multiple studies show native- born americans commit more crimes than immigrants do. the trump administration is going to review so-called national monument designations for millions of acres of federal land. they go back to president clinton's time in office. mr. trump ordered the review at the interior department today. it is aimed at what he called "a massive federal land grab" that bars drilling, mining and other uses. environmental and tribal groups denounced the action. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average lost 21 points to close at 20,975. the nasdaq fell a quarter of a point, and the s&p 500 slipped one point. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour: i sit down with white house budget director mick mulvaney to talk about the president's budget and tax priorities; approaching president trump's first 100 days in office-- a look at what he has accomplished here at home,
and much more. >> woodruff: on this day when the white house is unveiling the outline of a tax system overhaul, and negotiating down to the wire over a federal spending plan to fund the government through september, i sat down with the head of the office of management and budget, director mick mulvaney. firsts aigthsdz i spoke with him at his office this afternoon, before there were reports of a deal on health care subsidies. director mick mulvaney, thank you very much for talking with us. >> judy, thank you for having me. >> woodruff: i did want to start with talking to you about taxes, the big announcement today. >> sure. >> woodruff: the proposal, among other things calls for increases in standard deductions, individuals and families. big cuts in corporate business taxes. what is the administration trying to accomplish with this
proposal? >> getting economic growth back where it's supposed to be. i think what we've forgotten for the last decade is that america used to be a fast-growing economy. if you look over the course of our 200-plus years, we're supposed to grow at about 3% on average and that's where we've been since world war ii at the very least, even further back than that. and for the last decade, we have been growing at 2%. that doesn't sound like much, but when you think of it in terms of the compound interest, and an economy our size growing only 2% a year instead 3% the difference is tremendous. folks who are 30 years old, have never had a job during a time when the economy was growing at 3%. and it's entirely different. when i was a young person, if you got fired, you could find another job. if you wanted to quit, you could start your own company. we haven't had that for 10 years and we're trying to get back to that. that is what is driving not only
everything we do at the white house but the tax plan. >> woodruff: a lot of analysts say when you put together the proposed business tax cuts it, the individual cuts, and the proposal to do away with some of the taxes now in the affordable care act, in essence, it's the top 1% of americans, 1% of american high-income level who are going to benefit the most from this. how do you-- >> i'm not sure how could they could come to that conclusion. i would be curious to know what assumptions they're making regarding the value of deductions. for example, we get rid of all the dedeductions on the personal side, except charity and some of the home interest deduction. i'm not sure how you could make that conclusion, unless you're making some wild assumptions about the name of those deductions. >> woodruff: where do you see the benefits coming, what income? >> middle class and business, writ large, both large business and small business. in fact it should be one of the largest deductions on small
business, s.-corporations in the history of "s-"corporations. we're trying to drive the economic benefit to the taxpayers in the middle, the folks who are in the middle class, who are paying the taxes and the place where's they work. >> woodruff: we know the tax cuts for these so-called pass-through businesses, owner-owned businesses, are going to be among the beneficiaries. we know president trump, it's the kind of business he has. how much does he stand to benefit? and i ask people of because people are saying we don't know what his tax income situation is. he has said he's not going to release that. how does the public know that he doesn't stand to benefit significantly? >> i actually don't care about whether or not someone else benefits. i care about whether i benefit, "i" being just anybody. as long as i'm better off, why should i care if somebody is as well? what i look tat through is the lens of the business i used to run. i owned a restaurant, a fast, fresh, restaurant mexican restaurant. i rolled burritos the name i
announced i was running for congress. s corporations pay tax at the pass-through rate, typically the highest individual rate of the owners of the business. you take that to 15% tallows me to keep a lot more money in my business. what i would have done had i still been in that line of work is start preparing to open another restaurant. >> woodruff: i want to ask you about the revenue loss that comes from all these tax cuts. the administration at one point was talking about a border tax, some dined of adjustable tax at the border. that doesn't appear to be part of the proposal right now. how do you address significant drop in revenue at a time when the country is-- has deficits that are historic? >> we can talk about deficits more and i want to. but let's talk about-- you asked a couple different things, which is the border tax. keep in mind, that this is the first round of discussions. it's not a precooked bill. it's not prepackaged. this is sort of our principles, so just because it's not in this
first round of principles, doesn't mean it won't be in a final version of the bill. the president is interested in trying to figure out a way to tax imports, especially from countries that tax our exportz. regarding the revenue loss, keep in mind, the corporate income tax only generates i think $only 300 billion a year. so you can do a fairly good bit within the corporate tax and not cost a lot of revenue. and finally-- and you've heard secretary mnuchin talk about this today-- we're hoping for really, really good growth from these tax reform s. pgh >> woodruff: but as you know, when big tax cuts instituted during the presidency of ronald raigoon, that growth didn't materialize. they ended up having to raise taxes again by the end of his administration. >> aaah, actually that's not true. we did get really good growth from the regan years. we saw g.d.p. grow at very high rates as we came out of recession, something that didn't happen at the end of the recession in 2007, 2008. president obama chose to deal
with his recession by increasing regulations and getting government more involved in the economy. april regan decided to do the exact opposite. president regan got a tremendous result in terms of economic growth. president obama gave us eight years without 3% growth. i do think history shows us if we do the tax reform right, that we can put people back to work and grow the economy. >> woodruff: well, i want to move on to the budget. >> sure. >> woodruff: you finish up the fiscal year later on. right now, we don't know if there's an agreement on a spending-- on a spending plan for the rest of this year. where does that stand right now? >> that is a really, really good question, and i don't know, either, which bothers me a little bit because i'm the budget director. but we thought we had a deal on monday. the democrats objected to our inclusion of the bricks-and-mortar portion of the border wall. they said that was a poison bill expil to sort of drive home their point they said, "well, now we want these cost-sharing
payments, cost-- the c.s.r. payments-- the cost sharing reduction payments -- to the industry's part of the obamacare, and they put that on after they found out our request for the wall. we took the wall request away on monday and we're still waiting for the democrats to let us know where they stand. we thought we had a deal on monday, almost 48 hours ago now, and we have no idea where the democrats are. we don't know if they're doing internal polling that maybe says they're going to benefit from a shutdown. we really-- we're not concerned yet, but i'm a little surprised that we haven't buttoned this up. >> woodruff: is the administration, are you, the president, prepared to go ahead with-- with a spending arrangement that does not include these payments to subsidy payments to insurance companies that help low-income americans? >> that's whole idea. the bipartisan bill that i think has been negotiated now for three months, two months, on the hill, never included those payments until about two weeks ago. so we just assumed when we gave
up on our immediate demands for the bricks-and-mortar wall that the democrats would do the same thing and for some reason they're not being straight forward yet in what they want to do with the payments. >> woodruff: the white house-- you mentioned the wall, the fact that the president said he felt very strongly bthere had to be money in there to pay for a bricks-and-mortar wall. what signal that does that send? that was a centerpiece of his campaign. >> yeah, the day after we signed the bill that keeps the government open for the last five months of the fiscal year-- our fiscal year ends the end of september-- the discussions begin immediately for the larger budget for the full 2018 fiscal year-- in fact, that's the budget we happen to be working on today as well. we're doing '17 and '18 at the same time. those conversations will-- have actually already started in terms of what wall funding will be in 2018. so i don't think it's fair to say he's dropped anything. we simply said, look, this is the last five months of the fiscal year. there's very little we can get
built in five months anyway, so let's focus instead on things we agree on. the democrats say they support border security. in 2006, for example, then-senator obama voted for a lot of the stuff we're asking for right now? >> >> woodruff: it's not a lessening that this is a priority. >> it's a recognition of the fact that we only have five months left in the year anyway. those are the only discussion we're having right now. there are other things we can agree on. let's agree on them and fund the government and start talking tag about 2018. >> woodruff: final question, we're coming up on the 100-day mark-- >> i'm familiar with it. i heard a little bit about it. >> woodruff: for president trump. there are critics, even friends of the administration out there, who say this has been a rocky beginning for this administration, that you haven't been able to get as much done as you wanted, pulling back obamacare hasn't been repealed and replaced. the border wall that we've just been discussing. how do you see these first 100 days? >> a lot of stuff that was entirely in our control, i think we've actually exceeded our own
expectations. you can talk about the number of bills the president has signed. i think there's been at least 13, more than any president since world war ii. the number of executives orders we've issued. again, it's not just number of these things but what they've done. we've undone a lot of regulatory regime the previous administration nut. we've undone a lot of damage they did with our executive orders. so we've actually been able to reduce role of government in your life a great deal in the first 100 days. we take that as a huge success. i think president trump is the first president since the 1880s to have a supreme court justice in the first 100 days. yes upon we have not gotten health care done. ywe're just starting tax reform today. but keep in mind, those are things we have to work with congress, and congress turned out to be a lot more broken than we thought it was. in fact, one of the reasons we think democrats have not responded on our funding proposals for this year, is they don't want to give it to us within the first 100 days. that's how poisonous the
atmosphere is that we're working in. they sort of agreed in principle. they want to say yes, but they won't say yes until after 100 days to deny that to the property that's absurd and the folks back home pay the price for that. >> woodruff: budget director mick mulvaney, thank you very much. >> woodruff: now, a very different view of the president's tax plans. william brangham takes it from here. >> brangham: in addition to cutting the corporate rate and reducing the number of tax brackets, the president's blueprint calls for eliminating the alternative minimum tax, or a.m.t., as well as the estate tax. it would also eliminate any taxes on the first $24,000 of a couple's earnings. and, it would cut all itemized deductions, except for two big ones-- mortgage interest and charitable giving. i'm joined now by jared bernstein. he's an economist who served in the obama administration. he's now a fellow at the center
on budget and policy priorities. welcome. >> thank you. >> brangham: first reaction to the president's tax proposal. >> there are a lot of problems with this proposal. i can think of three or four right off the top of my head. first of all, on the revenues. this is a tax plan, even though we don't know all the details yet what, we do know suggests very clearly that this is going to lead to a loss of, north of at least $3 trillion to the treasury, and it could be as much as $6 trillion, that's over 10 years. >> brangham: so potentially big deficit hits. >> big deficit, big dessments hits. and there are arguments that the growth effects of these tax cuts will offset those revenue losses. those arguments are completely unfounded. there's just not a shred of evidence-- not a shred-- that tax cuts pay for themselves in the totality, which is what they're suggesting. that's not to say that tax cuts can't have some growth effects, but they tend to be really quite small. so that's the first point.
the growth point was number two. the third point-- and i really think director mulvaney got this pretty backwards-- was this tax cut plan exacerbates after-tax inequality. that means most its benefits accrue to those at the very top of the scale. we can go through some of the details, some of the pieces that you announced that generate that effect, but it mostly has to do with this very sharp cut in the corporate rate and this pass-through rate that you heard him talk about. and finally-- and this relates to the pass-through problem-- this tax plan oppose up a huge loophole. every high-end earner has an incentive now to become an independent business, an "s" corp, an llc., to take advantage of a pass-through rate is is going to be 15, 20 percentage points below what they would otherwise pay. >> brangham: secretary miniewchen in his press briefing
today, they argued these taxes are geared largely towards middle-income earner earners. you don't see any evidence there are targeted tax breaks for them in this? >> just the slightest bit which is the increase in the standard deduction. that's going to help some folks at the bottom. but that's tiny. the vast majority of the revenue losses that i was describing, the tripiologies that are not going to be flowing to the treasury if this tax cut ever becomes law, very much swamp anybody exwg to the middle class. let me give you an example. this sounds to me very similar to a house plan that was written by paul ryan quite recently, and with that plan, the top 1%, their after-tax income went up 11%. that's about $240,000. the middle class, their income went up .1%, which we can just call zero. that's 60 bucks. so that's the kind of imbalance we're looking at here. and that's what i mean when i say this really exacerbateaise
problem we already have, which is one of high levels of inequality. >> brangham: you heard judy and mick mulvaney talk about these pass-through companies and the huge tax cut they're going to be getting. you can explain what those companies are and what that tax cut would mean. >> these are the small businesses but they're not the moms and poops. >> they argue that is largely a tax cut for small business. >> it is a tax cut for some small business, but which small businesses are we talking about? the moms pops, you think about the corner store, they're already paying a low rate on the pass-through intrk something close to the 15% we're talking about. the ones who get the huge breaks here are high-end small business-- law firms and private equity funds and hedge funds. and again, the point here is that if you're being paid a high salary, you-- which you have to pay on your personal income side, which under their plan would be 35%-- you now have a very big, very tempting incentive to go to your boss and
say, "starting tomorrow, you're no longer paying me a paycheck. i'm jared bernstein l.l.c., and i'm going to tap that 15% loophole." >> brangham: you're a veteran of a lot of tax battles in the congress and the senate and the administration, isn't this justlet opening salvo of the trump administration? this is their beginning of their negotiating position? >> it is an opening salvo and i think that's an important point and we shouldn't forget that. the problem is this opening salvo goes completely in the wrong direction. we are a society, an economy, a government that is going to need more revenues in the future, not less. think about demographics alone. the share of elderly people in our country is going to go from 15 to about 21% over the next couple of deck paeppedz now that's baked in the cake. that's going to happen. that creates certain budgetary pressures so the idea that we're even starting with an opening salvo that's going to keep, you know, three trillion, four
trillion, five trillion is starting in precisely the wrong play. >> brangham: jared bernstein, thank you very much for your analysis. >> my pleasure. >> woodruff: stay with us. coming up on the newshour: "hell on earth," a new striking documentary on syria and its civil war; walled off-- the proposed u.s.-mexico border wall putting endangered species at risk; and, remembering jonathan demme, the director who brought us "silence of the lambs." but first, as president trump nears his 100th day in office, white house correspondent john yang begins our look at his accomplishments, and setbacks, with a focus on the home front. >> reporter: for president trump, today's tax announcement amounted to a campaign promise kept.
>> reporter: it comes as he nears his 100th day in office. president trump dismisses that milestone as "not very meaningful" and a "ridiculous standard," even as administration officials aggressively push his accomplishments online, and on-camera: >> when you think about what he's started, it's been a hugely successful first 100 days. >> reporter: mr. trump came to the white house intent on shaking up washington and changing the way it works. he and his advisers have been focusing on asserting executive action. he is on track to sign the most executive orders since world war ii. but, like other chief executives bent on changing washington, he's run into obstacles in congress and the courts. there have been clear victories. administration officials tout the confirmation of supreme court justice neil gorsuch, though republicans had to change senate rules to do it. >> and i got it done in the first 100 days. that's even nice.
>> reporter: and he moved quickly to revive construction of the keystone pipeline, with executive action. the courts have stymied other executive actions, like his immigrant travel ban, and, just yesterday, his effort to strip federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities. while stinging from those court actions, the administration officials say the president's tough talk has led to a sharp drop in illegal crossings over the southern border since january, reversing a nearly 20-year trend. president trump has also reversed himself on some campaign promises, such as not declaring china a currency manipulator, as he had pledged to do in campaign rallies across america. >> we should have done that years ago. >> reporter: and now the white house is working to reverse the most embarrassing setback of his first 100 days: the initial failure to repeal and replace the affordable care act, or obamacare, a signature pledge of his campaign. >> we were very close. it was a very, very tight margin. >> reporter: that episode shook some administration officials'
confidence in house speaker paul ryan's ability to deliver votes: >> we came really close today, but we came up short. >> reporter: on tax reform and other major legislative initiatives in the near future, such as the promised infrastructure rebuilding, there are indications the white house intends to chart its own course as they search for the victories the president wants, to turn his vision of "making america great again" into a reality. for the pbs newshour, i'm john yang at the white house. >> woodruff: for more on president trump's first 100 days, and how he compares to his predecessors, i am joined by barbara perry. she is the director of presidential studies at the university of virginia's miller center. and, by presidential historian and newshour regular, michael beschloss.
>> amazing success with congress getting all this legislation, fixing the banks, trying to relieve the poor, tennessee valley authority, public works, a kind of legislative record that we probably will not see again. and every president since then has hated it because they're measured against this almost-unreal standard. >> woodruff: so barbara perry, here we are, almost 100 days in for president trump, how does he compare to his predecessors at this point? >> depends on what you want to compare him on. if you want to look at, let's say, executive orders. certainly in terms of the numbers, he would be right up there in the categories of most presidents. but as michael said, in reference to legislation, i think f.d.r. passed 76 laws in the first 100 days through a very amenable congress. obviously, trump is not going to come anywhere near that record
and probably no other president will, either. but i would say, certainly on executive orders, on the supreme court appointment of neal gorsuch, he gets "a"s in terms of getting what he wanted based on some of the promises that he made during the campaign. >> woodruff: michael, how do you see him compared to others? >> i think i'd say a little differently because trump made such a point before the campaign saying, "elect me. this is a referendum on my 100-day action plan. i'll get all these things through congress with a republican congress," which he has had. and in retrospect, as you do say, this has been 100 days with almost nothing of great importance, despite the fact that he had promised health care reform and big tax reform, which he's getting to this week and a number of other things-- border wall. if you're looking at the 100 days largely as a legislative standard-- and that's usually what it is in history, trump is
pretty low down on the list. >> woodruff: michael references where the 100-day standard comes from, but how often do presidents get a lot done early on? >> it fendz on the president, of course. if you look at someone like lyndon johnson, who had, of course, two first 100 days, one after the kennedy assassination, and being elected in his own right, but particularly after the 1964 election, in 1965, as he moved forward with the great society-- medicare and medicaid, and the voting rights act of 1965. so we will point to a president like that. again, no one will ever again "standard of f.d.r. in legislation. i also look out where they come out in the first 100 days in approval ratings, which is a fascinating parlor game to play. we know this president came in with the lowest entering approval rating of any president. but it also doesn't matter necessarily if you make a mistake because the person with the highest rating after 100 days is john f. kennedy, after
the bay of pigs. but the way he handled that issue by going before the american people and saying, "i'm responsible for this. i'm the responsible officer of the government," caused his approval ratings to spike even further. so he comes in with an 83% rating. we know trump's approval ratings is down in the low 40s at this point. >> woodruff: dig a little deeper there, michael, in terms of how donald trump has done compared torg presidents. you started to talk about this a moment ago with the setting of the standard. but how does he stack up? >> well, you know, a lot of this, you know, what presidents do above and beyond their congressional record is do they expand the base that they had on election day? donald trump, you know, got, what, 47% of the popular vote. now he is down to about 40, which would suggest if, any he's alienated some of the people who voted for him. usually with presidents, you see-- and this is true of almost every president back to f.d.r.-- the opposite. they get elected, they say, "i need people who didn't vote for me, who are skeptical of me.
i'm going to reach out to them. i'm the president of all the people." and you see the numbers go up because people appreciate the fact they are reaching out. that is one thing donald trump-- and this has been his own chinese chois-- has not done. he's essentially said, "i'm happy with my base. i will play with them. i am not going to make a big effort to reach out to democrats and independents in congress or out among the american people." and i think the numbers show that he's paid for that. >> woodruff: one other feature of this presidency have been his unusual attacks, if you will, barbara, on the judiciary. time and again he has singled out the courts, judges, justices when he didn't like what they ruled. >> yes, which is a little odd in the sense his sister is a federal judge and a circuit judge at that. but he is following in the footsteps of some other presidents, and we can point directly to f.d.r., for example, who took on the judiciary head long, not necessarily even in the first term, but certainly
once he was reelected by a landslide by '36, and famously or infamously tried to pack the court. but i always go back to a speech he gave in which he said, the two branches of government, there are two horses pulling in the same direction, and the supreme court which kept strike down many pieces of i had new deal legislation is pulling in the opposite direction. >> woodruff: it's not so unusual, michael. but there has been a frequency we haven't seen. >> i think that's right. and regan talked about unelected judges. but in trump's case you've had-- and this is historically unusual-- two big executive orders within these first 100 days, including most recently sanctuary dispaez earlier on the travel ban, each time he would say, almost in anger, "this was something that an unelected judge did," or "something that a so-called judge did." and it's sort of the opposite of
conservatism. because one of the things that is most fundamental in being a conservative is having respect for the democratic institutions that we think are important. >> woodruff: let's talk, finally, barbara, about what the first 100 days tells us about the rest of a presidency. to what extent can we look at donald trump's first few months in office and say this forecast, whether he's going to be successful or not? >> well, i'm from louisville, kentucky, originally, and we're about to do the kentucky derby so i say a horse can stumble out of the gate or running last in the first third. >> absolutely. >> and still come on to win. to the point about low approval ratings and michael's point about not necessarily accomplishing all of the list of things he said he would do in the 100 days, doesn't mean he won't be re-elected or have a failed presidency. when you think about someone like bill clinton who had a rather chaotic start in a host of ways in those first 100 days, and even up to the oklahoma city bombing in 1995, and people were
saying, it's the shrinking presidency and shrinking bill clinton as president but he came on strong and we know he was re-elected. it's not a ouija bird, and as a professor i would say to the students in the first third of the semester, if they scoarld lower than they wanted on the first test, i would say, "you have more tests to do, you have a term paper, participate in class." so trump has many more things on which to be graded. >> woodruff: how do the see the first 100 days? >> i agree with that. it's a standard that doesn't historically tell us a lot. think of all these presidents and what turns out to be important about their administration, these moments like kennedy and the missile crisis, or johnson and the vietnam escalation, or george w. bush and 9/11. none of those things happened during the first 100 days. if we were having a great conversation like this 100 days into each of those presidencies, we would not have beenably to predict what historians now think was really turning out to be pivotal. >> woodruff: michael beschloss, barbara perry, thank you both. >> thank you, judy. >> thank you, judy.
>> woodruff: and tomorrow, we will take a look at the trump administration's overseas successes and setbacks within its first 100 days. >> woodruff: now, a look at a new film about the brutal syrian civil war. hari sreenivasan has that story. >> sreenivasan: the french government today said its analysis of samples from a chemical attack in syria earlier this month prove that the government of bashar al assad was responsible. that attack was one more flashpoint in a war that has now entered its seventh year, and it is the subject of a searing new documentary called "hell on earth: the fall of syria and the rise of isis." it debuts at the tribeca film festival this week, here in new york, and will air later this summer on national geographic. it is co-directed by the journalist and author, sebastian junger, who also narrates the film.
thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: why make this right now? >> we started about two years ago. wemented to explain why the syrian civil war happened, how it evolved, and particularly, why isis came out of it. isis is a kind of rare phenomenon. and we wanted to explain that to the american people. >> sreenivasan: there's a family that you intersperse throughout this documentary. they are making their way out of syria, or attempting to, as they go along. ask there's a real telling clip early on in the film, where there's a father just trying to comfort his kids. take a look. ( crying ) >> sreenivasan: this is juxtaposed with a phrase that you have from syrian president
bashar al-assad saying we don't indiscriminately bomb anyone. and here we had a family who is clearly couldn' could be the taf this. >> that clip shows a night time bombing by the syrian government, by the syrian air force. assad is just lying. plenty of politicians do, and he's one of them. >> sreenivasan: one of the interesting things, there's also a little map you have throughout this film, about how massive this typy country, this tiny war has gotten, meaning how many other global partners or primaries involved in this. it's not just the reason. you have proxies, russia and the united states involved, but you also have so many countries around it that are involved now. >> yeah, i mean, wrars a little like tumors. you know, they sort of drawn drawin more and more blood supply and they grow. there are arms going in. there's oil coming up on the. there are antiquities coming out, and people coming out and jihadis going in. it's the whole ecosystem, and even on the diplomatic level, on the national level, there are a
good dozen countries that are directly involved in the mechanics of that war. it's a very, very powerful players in the world. it's like a bar fight that, you know, the longer it goes on, the more people are involved until everyone is fighting. one of the rationales for stepping in early and trying to stop these civil wars before they get this kind of critical mass. >> sreenivasan: speaking of stepping in early or later, one of the things you point out is that there's a legacy that goes all the way back, perhaps, to the deep-- in iraq and in syria. you tack a fairly pointed look at president obama and the red line. and the united states' inability to do anything after that red line was crossed. >> oh, there are huge missteps by the united states. the invasion of iraq, arguably, being one of them. after we invaded iraq, the deba'athification put on the streets of ba'ath party members
who weren't necessarily loyalists, but they were sort of expelled from government, expelled from the military, expelled from their jobs. and then we helped install a shia government in baghdad that really starting preying on these people, killing them. and so, of course, those people saw isis as-- isis presented themselves as their protectors. and so, you know, of course, that-- you know, that worked quite well for isis. and had that not happened and, you know, this analysis comes from american generals. this isn't some sort of far-out left-wing analysis. these are american generals looking back at the war in iraq and thinking, my god, was that a mistake. >> sreenivasan: and the ripple effects now it has even going all the way up into europe and even political repercussion of the migrant influx into europe. >> in the modern world, and maybe even the ancient world, you really can't say someone else's problems aren't your problems. they will eventually reach you. my first war was bosnia.
it was a war a lot of people sort of ignored but it started pumping millions of refugees out of eastern europe into neighboring countries and along with that came a lot of problems, including organized crime, into allied countries, countries that we're allied with. eventually, president clinton stepped in and put a stop to it. but there are real consequences and i syria it's a cauldron of an awful lot of things that will affect us-- refugees, terrorism, and a huge nexus of illegal activity-- arms sales, drugs antiquities. wrars not something you want happening in the world, and they will affect everybody, including people in the united states. i think people don't quite understand that. >> sreenivasan: sebastian junger, thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> woodruff: president trump says he wants to build a
hardened wall across the u.s.- mexico border, to reduce the flow of drugs and illegal immigration. but, what would a continuous wall from california to texas mean for the wildlife living along that border? william brangham is back again with this report from arizona. it is part of our weekly series examining the "leading edge" of science. >> brangham: tens of thousands of migrants risk their lives each year crossing this dangerous, remote desert between the u.s. and mexico. some have found creative ways to get over, or under, or around the steel fences built to keep them out. but, many of the wild plants and animals here in the sonoran desert can't do that. these miles of fencing divide their natural habitat and threaten their survival. at least 50 species near the border are already endangered-- like the sonoran pronghorn, the gray wolf and the ocelot. >> nature has no borders. nature knows no political boundaries. >> brangham: sergio avila- villegas is a wildlife biologist
with the arizona-sonora desert museum in tucson. he's spent the last 16 years studying this area. he took us to the coronado national memorial in the huachuca mountains on the arizona/mexico border. he says the border fence-- you can see it there in the distance-- means animals have to range farther afield to find food, water and mates. there's this one, what seems to my eye, a very thin fence that runs across the border, but you're saying this really does have a major impact on the species that live here? >> from a sparrow perspective, from a grasshopper perspective, and from even plant perspective, this is a very difficult thing to overcome, and this blocks reproduction of plants and animals. >> brangham: in one study from 2011, biologists found border fences increased the risk of population decline and extinction, especially for endangered species. another study from the same year found border security infrastructure could interfere with black bear breeding. before the border fence between
the u.s. and mexico went up about ten years ago, conservationists tried to stop it, but ultimately lost that fight. 80% of arizona's border with mexico has some kind of barrier. gaps do occasionally exist where wildlife can pass, but finding those places isn't easy. >> we're gonna build a great wall. >> brangham: now that president trump plans to build what may be a continuous wall from california to texas, avila- villegas and other scientists worry this will only accelerate the extinction of some animals. >> long-term, this could be a division of genetical populations where a group of animals from one side cannot reproduce with another group of animals. the survival of the species is at risk. >> brangham: species like this jaguar, which was spotted several times in arizona over the last few years. historically, these jaguars roamed from the southwest united states down through the amazon basin, all the way to argentina.
scientists estimate this big cat now occupies less than half of its original range because of habitat loss and poaching. there may be fewer than 50,000 breeding adults left. >> if there's an impermeable barrier, we are losing the opportunity to have the third largest cat in the world recover its populations in the united states. jaguars deserve an opportunity to live in this place too. >> the coronado national memorial is considered a critical habitat zone-- meaning it would normally be protected by the endangered species act. >> brangham: but congress wanted the fence built quickly. in 2005, it allowed the department of homeland security to bypass all environmental laws during construction, including the requirement to study what this fence would do to wildlife. congressman rob bishop, republican from utah, thinks those exemptions aren't enough. he's introduced legislation that would extend those legal waivers to border patrol agents who do have to obey environmental laws. >> everything from california to texas is almost all federal
property, and over half of that is in a wilderness designation, which has specific requirements for what can and cannot be done. that's where the border patrol is prohibited from doing their job, and that's the mistake. because that becomes becomes the avenue for most of the illegal entrants into this country. and, i think it has a direct correlation in the amount of federal land, and the amount of restrictions the border patrol has on how they can do their jobs on that corridor. >> brangham: border patrol can't build bases, towers, or roads without permission from other federal agencies, like the fish and wildlife service. they're also not allowed to drive over protected lands, a rule smugglers don't have to follow. >> we have one of the largest wilderness areas in a national wildlife refuge in southern arizona, and border patrol has been driving over it for close to a decade. >> brangham: cyndi tuell is an environmental lawyer and border lands conservation advocate, who says she's seen border patrol in places they're not supposed to be. >> the main focus of my work as a conservation attorney, is to
try to get border patrol, department of homeland security to follow the law. >> brangham: she spends part of her time travelling the back country, looking for signs of border patrol's impact on public lands. she says their vehicles can crush vegetation and erode soil, and that habitat is destroyed when they build bases and surveillance towers. >> every time i'm out here, though, i interact with a border patrol agent, or i see the signs of militarization. i see tanks, i see heavily armed men. i see vehicle tracks two or three miles into a wilderness area, that i know shouldn't be there. >> customs and border protection has to be able to be on the borders, whether it's in environmentally sensitive land or not. >> brangham: gil kerlikowske served as the commissioner for customs and border protection from 2014 until the new administration took over.
he's now a fellow at harvard. >> but i never saw anyone work harder than those people. i think it's very difficult for those agents and their vehicles and other types of equipment to be in an area and not to leave some type of footprint. >> the infrastructure seems to be a one-solution-fits-all for many different problems, and i don't think it's addressing the root causes, and i really think that the environment is paying the ultimate price for this. >> brangham: have you and the conservation community made those concerns known to the border patrol and the customs and border protection? >> a lot of our concerns have been voiced through the conservation and science community to the department of homeland security. they don't go anywhere. the border patrol and the department of homeland security have no mandate to listen to these concerns.
>> brangham: we asked the department of homeland security if they've required any passageways for wildlife in the solicitations they've put out to contractors who want to build the wall. they responded, "d.h.s. has concluded that the currently- planned prototype project will not result in significant environmental impacts. as a result, for this particular project, d.h.s. is not planning for mitigation." president trump ordered 5,000 more agents be hired and deployed along the border, and plans for his wall are now being drafted. the few wildlife corridors that do remain could soon be closed for good. from the sonoran desert in arizona, i'm william brangham for the pbs newshour. >> woodruff: and finally tonight, hari sreenivasan is back with an appreciation of an oscar-winning director.
>> quid pro quo. i tell you things, you tell me things. not about this case, though, about yourself. >> sreenivasan: after years making b-movies, jonathan demme's first major commercial success was 1991's "silence of the lambs;" and for many, would remain his best-known film. the dark thriller, based on a book, followed jodi foster as an f.b.i. field agent on the hunt for a serial killer, using the counsel of a psychopath named hannibal lecter, played by anthony hopkins. >> what is your worst memory of childhood? >> the death of my father. >> tell me about it, and don't lie, or i'll know. >> he was a town marshal, and one night he surprised two burglars coming out of the back of a drugstore. they shot him. >> sreenivasan: it earned demme >> sreenivasan: it earned demme the academy award for best director. >> --to jonathan demme, for "silence of the lambs!" >> sreenivasan: and it remains the only horror film to ever win
for best picture. >> hi, mom, and thanks for transferring your love of movies to me, and thanks, dad, for making me think i could actually be part of this industry. and thank you. >> sreenivasan: mike sargent is a film critic for pacifica radio. >> at the time, a thriller and horror were seen to be the same thing. so you have great actors, so he took something that could've been considered pulpy and made it high art. he really elevated the form. >> sreenivasan: but demme did more than crime-thrillers. over his career, he made indie films, dramas, documentaries, comedies and concert movies, too: ♪ i got a girlfriend that's better than that ♪ as we get older and stop making sense >> >> sreenivasan: including 1984's "stop making sense," a stylized look at the band "the talking
heads." >> so you were concealing your illness. >> sreenivasan: in 1993 demme directed "philadelphia," one of the first major hollywood films to confront the h.i.v./aids crisis. it starred denzel washington and tom hanks, who won an oscar for his portrayal of a gay lawyer infected with h.i.v. >> didn't you have an obligation to tell your employer huthis dreaded, deadly, infectious disease? >> that's not the point. from the day they hired me, erro the day they fired me i served my clients with absolute excellence. if they hadn't fired me that's what i would be doing today. >> sreenivasan: five years later, demme directed the adaptation of toni morrison's novel "beloved," starring oprah winfrey. >> could stay tonight if you had a mind to. >> you don't sound too stead nethe offer. >> oh, it's truly meant. it's just i hope you pardon my house. >> "my house." i like the sound of that. >> he was definitely someone who i think was sensitive to issues of race and sexuality and things
like that. >> what i loved the most about the law? >> yeah. >> is that every now and again, not often, but occasionally, you get to be a part of justice being done. >> i think h >> i think he stacks up there in the top 25 of great directors for the kind of films he did. for the body of work he did, careers he helped. when you look back on it. >> sreenivasan: demme continued to work, up until his death this morning. he passed away from esophageal cancer at his home in new york. he was 73 years old. >> woodruff: and he made a string of remarkable movies. on the newshour online right now: an ancient animal skeleton of a mastodon, found near san
diego, may rewrite the entire history of the americas, suggesting humans arrived in the area more than 100,000 years before previously thought. we examine the evidence on our website, www.pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. on thursday, our "making sense" team looks at the effect of rising prescription drug prices has on the overall cost of health care. i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again right here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, and we'll see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> supported by the rockefeller foundation. promoting the wellbeing of humanity around the world, by building resilience and inclusive economies. more at www.rockefellerfoundation.org. >> and with the ongoing support
of these institutions and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> you're watching pbs.
-many of us are trying to find ways to build a more sustainable world for our future generations. we are concerned that our planet's well being isn't as secure as it once seemed. but on every continent, there are new environmentalists who are committed to change. whether it is an individual, a small group or a grassroots organization, they make personal sacrifices that most of us couldn't even imagine. -my husband and i bought this land